News

Spotlight on Innovations and Achievements: Marin County Area Agency on Aging Combats Older Adult Financial Abuse

Learn how this AAA provided community education, training and consultation to recognize, investigate, stop and prevent the financial abuse of older and dependent adults.

We're proud to highlight the award-winning work of the 2019 winners of n4a's Aging Innovations and Achievement Awards in this weekly spotlight feature. This week, we are focusing on Marin County Area Agency on Aging's Financial Abuse Specialist Team (FAST). The agency was a 2019 Aging Achievement Award winner in the Elder Abuse Prevention category.
 
The Marin County AAA's Financial Abuse Specialist Team (FAST) is a multidisciplinary team of public agency representatives and private professionals with expertise in accounting, law, business or banking. FAST members work with Adult Protective Services (APS), the District Attorney's Office, police and sheriff's investigators and Legal Aid on cases that involve financial abuse. The team also goes into the community to educate older adults on how to protect themselves from financial abuse by identifying scams, avoiding pitfalls and identifying potential red flags. The program's success lies in both pieces of the program, which equally prevent and help prosecute financial abuse that is targeted toward older adults.
 
FAST was formed in 2005 to provide expert forensic assistance in the investigation of complex cases of suspected elder financial abuse. FAST also works to raise public awareness and provide community education through professional training programs. Since 2015, the team has given 81 educational sessions to professionals and the public, reaching a total of 1,458 people. The team has distributed 14,000 pieces of educational materials and conducts ongoing outreach to law enforcement agencies to garner more cases. In 2019, the team handled nine cases and helped to successfully prosecute existing financial abuse cases by working in collaboration with the District Attorney's Office and local law enforcement.
 
More than 30 percent of Marin County APS cases in the last two years have contained an allegation of financial abuse. Recently, the team's work on an APS case resulted in a restraining order being filed against a caregiver and a successful petition being filed to establish a professional conservator over the client's estate. The intervention of the FAST team enabled the client to continue living in her home with her finances being used appropriately for her care, rather than financing the caregiver's vacations.
 
All of Marin County AAA's FAST members are extremely passionate about helping older adults maintain their independence. “In educating older adults about various financial scams, I am also educating myself. It keeps my work meaningful and makes me grateful that I am part of the solution,” said a volunteer of the program.
 
Marin County FAST's structure can easily be replicated and lends itself to various iterations depending upon the needs of each agency and area. Marin County FAST can share organizational documents, educational handouts and other materials. Sonoma County in Northern California has already modeled their FAST program after Marin County.
 
To learn more about the Marin County Area Agency on Aging's Financial Abuse Specialist Team (FAST), contact Lee Pullen, Director, Marin County Area Agency on Aging, lpullen@marincounty.org.
 
For more information about the 2019 winners, read our press release and check out our book of winners to learn how your agency can implement this or similar programs in your community! You can also listen to our four-part webinar series, n4a Lunchtime Innovations, to hear your peers' secrets to success for these award-winning programs.

Contributors